The world at a glance . . . Europe
Sarkozy’s new love: French President Nicolas Sarkozy has gone public with his new girlfriend, model-turned-folksinger Carla Bruni. The couple was photographed last weekend on an apparent date at Disneyland Paris. “We must now wait and see how far the president will go in presenting Carla Bruni officially,” said Christophe Barbier, editor of the weekly magazine L’Express. “We will see if he includes her on trips and if one day he gives her official functions.” Bruni, 39, has been romantically linked in the past with rock stars Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton. Sarkozy, 52, announced his divorce from Cecilia, his wife of 11 years, just two months ago.
Foreigners must pay: Some British families with foreign relatives will have to put up thousands of dollars in bonds to have their relatives visit them, the government said this week. In a requirement aimed at reducing illegal immigration, a cash bond of about $2,000 would have to be posted for each family member who visits from outside the E.U. The money would be returned after the relative leaves Britain. Immigrant activists said the plan would create hardship for many families. “This means that only people with fat wallets will be able to bring their families,” said Habib Rahman of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. A working-class British bride with a family in Pakistan, for example, may not be able to afford to invite her parents and grandparents to her wedding. Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said the bond would be required only in situations in which visitors are deemed a risk for overstaying.
Euro good for waiters: Many Spaniards still haven’t figured out the value of the euro—and that makes them overtip, Finance Minister Pedro Solbes said this week. Five years ago, Spain replaced the peseta with the euro, Europe’s common currency, but consumers don’t seem to grasp that the euro is worth much more. “I see people having a couple of coffees and leaving a one-euro tip,” Solbes said. “That’s 50 percent of the value of the product.” One euro was worth 166.386 pesetas when the changeover happened, meaning that purchases involve the convoluted mental calculation of multiplying by 166.
Death TV: Germany is launching a new TV station devoted to old age and death. Etos TV will feature video obituaries and documentaries about graveyards. “More than 800,000 people die in Germany every year, but the death notices in the papers reveal almost nothing about them,” said network founder Wolf Tilmann Schneider. “We want to change that by working with the relatives and the undertakers.” But he stresses that not all programming will be macabre. The network will also run how-to shows that provide tips on such issues as choosing a retirement home and making an apartment handicap-accessible. By 2020, one-third of Germans will be retired.
Palestinians get aid: The Palestinian Authority got more money than it was asking for this week, when donor nations led by the U.S. and E.U. met in Paris and pledged $7 billion in aid over three years. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had asked for $5.6 billion. But the Islamist militant party Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, was not invited to the donor conference, and it’s not clear whether much of the aid money will go to Gaza. A U.N. report said that the Gaza economy was “on the verge of collapse,” with more than 70 percent of its 1.5 million people living on just over $1 a day.
Tymoshenko wins: Pro-Western politician Yulia Tymoshenko squeaked back into office as Ukraine’s prime minister this week, after mustering the minimum 226 votes in Parliament. U.S. Ambassador William Taylor called Tymoshenko’s election a vote for reform. “It’s great to have a prime minister that we can now deal with, and we hope that this is the first step toward forming a reform-minded government,” he said. The close result leaves Tymoshenko’s government in a relatively weak position, though, and the pro-Russian opposition can be expected to fight against her market-oriented policies. Tymoshenko was an ally of President Viktor Yushchenko during the 2004 Orange Revolution. She served as his prime minister until September 2005, when Yushchenko fired her amid unproven allegations of corruption.